You might be wondering what these have in common. Well I’ll tell you – they involve one of the most striking myths of new motherhood: that it is the best and most wonderful thing ever in the entire world and that all your dreams and hopes will have come true and you’ll wonder how you ever lived before this beautiful new life came to be. I mean, how many times I have I heard my mommy friends talk about how fantastic motherhood was…and just weeks in to their new babies’ lives?All I can say to this is – what are you guys smoking, and will you please share?
I am sick and tired of the lie that mothers will or should fall in love with their babies, or their new lives as mothers, immediately. I know I haven’t, and it’s made me feel like a complete failure these past couple of months. I was reminded yesterday by my therapist of this interview on 60 Minutes, in which Felicity Huffman stated that motherhood was NOT the best experience of her life. Leslie Stahl was taken aback by her answer, and Felicity was subjected to a backlash in the media for her comments.
Also check out this Kay Jeweler’s commercial. I wanted to throw the remote into our TV this Christmas every time this damned thing came on. In what fucking world does this actually happen? Our Christmas morning looked nothing like this. Instead, it was composed of me and the baby crying, covered in spit-up, barely showered, gifts unopened, and constantly interrupted iChats with the family. Nobody was happy, or peaceful, and nobody looked that good. It was not a wonderful Christmas. In fact, it sucked big time.
It’s not like I don’t care for my child, but right now it feels much more like an instinctual impulse than actual love. I feel the need to feed, clothe and comfort this new little life. I’m not necessarily doing any of it because I want to. I want to sleep. I want to work. I want to remember what it’s like to eat dinner with my husband in the evenings, to have a conversation with him, to not wonder when our alone time is going to be interrupted by the sound of crying.
Listen, I’m sure that motherhood is going to be wonderful, eventually. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with this little new life that Hubby and I have been blessed with. And I’m sure that having a child will become fun, at times, and not just a complete suckage of all my energy. But, for now, that’s just not the case. To quote my doctor, “A newborn baby is more of a lump that demands all of your time and attention, and gives very little back. Why should you instantly fall in love?” It takes time to fall in love for most people. You have to get to know the person, learn who they are, and, right now, our little one remains a mystery. He’s cute, but he also cries a LOT. He makes some really funny sounds, but we have no idea what they mean. He makes some great and interesting faces, especially when he’s pooping, that make Hubby and I laugh, but he can’t smile or laugh back at us.
Not that some mothers don’t have an instantaneous understanding of what has happened to them when they give birth, but I’m still trying to figure it all out. While part of this might be due to postpartum depression, I have a feeling this sentiment is shared by many more new mothers than just myself. In fact I know it is. I’ve talked to soooooo many people, in the blogosphere and IRL, who felt just as overwhelmed, confused, and guilty as I have. But nobody ever tells you that it’s okay to wonder “what the hell did I get myself into” for the first few months. Why not? Because they’ll be ostracized for being a terrible mother.
So I’m saying it now, and hopefully a few to-be moms out there will listen and remember it when they give birth. It’s okay to not immediately fall in love with your child. You’re not a terrible person, and you’re not a terrible mother. You’ll eventually get there, it just takes time. I have faith in this. I see it when my mom looks at me. And I know I’ll start to look at our little guy the same way… sometime very soon I bet.